Our Guide to Wood, Painted or Laminate Cabinets

Finally, our guide to the endless Wood X Paint X Laminate Cabinet Debate.

Are wood cabinets really better than painted cabinets for durability? And what are laminate cabinets and why would I even want them in my house?

The longevity of a cabinet finish depends on various factors, including the quality of the material, techniques used in manufacturing, the conditions it is exposed to, and how well it is maintained. This, of course, goes for anything, right?

However, we do have some facts for you to determine the best type of cabinet for your home and use.

For the Wood-Lover

Wood veneer cabinets are made by applying a thin layer of a real wood slice over a substrate material, usually plywood or MDF.

This construction method results in cabinets that are as close to “solid wood” as the old-fashioned cabinets used to be. The treatment on the veneer is called a stain, and it gives the chosen woodgrain the light or dark hue desired.

Wood veneer cabinets are NOT water, dent, or scratch-proof. Droplets of water constantly hitting the same surfaces and not wiped away immediately will leave mineral deposits on the wood and cause discoloration, wearing off the stain eventually.

Plywood boxes are a North-American contractor standard and are available in 5/8" or 3/4" thick.

Solid wood doors are only used in certain cases for 5-piece doors such as in shaker or framed door profiles, where the top and bottom + 2 side rails of the shaker frame are made of solid wood. The center panel is MDF or plywood with a wood veneer layer. All parts receive the same stain treatment or paint desired.

Wood cabinet doors may fade over time when exposed to sunlight's UV properties. Natural materials age differently, so it’s common to see an older kitchen with a myriad of wood tones in its various door and drawer fronts, depending on how close they were to the light from the windows.

Wood veneer is NOT less susceptible to scratching than laminate, but it can be re-painted.

Can you re-stain or re-paint wood cabinets?

Re-staining is a multi-step and costly process. Painting over your old stain finish is more common and doable.

For this service, you will want to contact a specialist painter who specializes in refacing or painting existing kitchen cabinets. Pricing for re-staining and refacing vary, so always good to get a quote from the pros before making assumptions.

For the Designer Directed Homeowner

Interior designers love to specify painted cabinets A LOT (and we are interior designers too so we know!) because paint allows one to play with colors and design themes freely, making the project aesthetics an easy winner for magazine-worthy photo shoots and Instagram posts.

Painted cabinets can be made from a variety of materials, including MDF (medium-density fiberboard), particleboard, or plywood.

While painted cabinets can be durable if made from high-quality materials and painted with high-quality paint and process, they are more susceptible to scratches than wood-veneer or laminate cabinets.

For the Practical-And-Beautiful People

Laminate veneer on cabinets (TFL – thermo-fused laminate) is made from layers of paper that have been saturated with resin and then bonded together under high pressure.

Laminate cabinets are durable and resistant to scratches, moisture, and stains, and when edge banded correctly the sides and edges will never chip or peel.

Exquisite textures on woodgrain laminates have entered the luxury cabinet market and are dominating the scene, thanks to brands such as Rehaul and Uniboard with their innovative luxury products. High-quality laminate is also environmentally friendly as the longevity of these products will allow you to keep your kitchen cabinets in top shape for many more years.

In summary, while all three cabinet materials can be durable and long-lasting if made from high-quality materials and maintained properly, TFL (laminate) cabinets are the most durable and long-lasting option of the three.

What about pricing?

Visit this blog post to learn more about cabinet pricing.

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